Gail of Green Living


Summer Garden in June

Purple Hulled Peas

Let’s start with the GOOD things about my garden in June.  These purple hulled peas are growing in a pot about 14″ in diameter.  I can’t remember how many seeds I planted, but I know they are way more crowded than any seed packet would advise.  The first picking last night yielded only 1 serving, and I just need 2 at a time, so maybe next time, it will be better.  They are a beautiful summer plant!

Pumpkin

Now, this seems like a really odd-looking pumpkin, but it just might grow up to be a tall, skinny dude someday.  Two other small pumpkins have not made it as far as this one, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  The vines are resting on cardboard, because the ground underneath is full of tree roots and weeds.

Blueberry Bush

This is a ripe blueberry I ate right after the picture was taken.  It was the best one ever!  I have netting all around both bushes now, and I might get to eat the last 1/2 dozen on the bushes.  The Mockingbirds and Bluejays LOVE them, too, and they were clearly the winners this year.  My grandson ate two and I’ve had one.  I wonder how many bushes a city dweller needs to have enough production to matter!

Better Bush Tomato

Well you can see that I’ve had to cover the tomatoes with bird netting as well!  But I’m getting more tomatoes again.  They aren’t very big, but they are good.  This bush shows the result of heavy rains and heat…yellowing leaves and new growth.  So they won’t win a beauty pageant, but I’m counting on a nice bumper crop later in the summer.

Cucumbers

After enjoying several great cucumbers, all of a sudden, the leaves all withered and died.  I think it was too hot, but I’m going to try again.  This is the second crop getting started.

Parsley

Now parsley is usually not a big thing on my maintenance routine.  Usually, if I just keep it in the shade during the summer, it makes it.  However, about six weeks ago, I had bright green and black striped worms (and you can see where they stripped off the foliage), and after using the HOD method of worm control, I didn’t see anymore.  I’ve been seeing butterflies in and around it the last few days, so I am prepared for another round of worms any time now!  Someone tell me why butterflies like parsley.

I also found a very large hornworm on one tomato plant this morning.  Two things tell you to look for one and they leave clues about the location…no leaves left on stems of one area of the plant and worm “poop” directly below where that rascal is munching!

In Houston near the Medical Center, we need more consistent, but less heavy rains.  I hope your garden is doing well.  I hope to hear from my friend who has her garden in Maine every summer!  Her blueberry picking experiences inspired me to get my bushes!



GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Building Envelope

3703 Drummond

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the above property for sale in the Medical Center neighborhood called Braes Heights, in Houston.  This owner/builder has researched and studied so many products and methods of green building, that I’m sure we can all benefit from his research.  This week I’m summarizing his research on The Building Envelope, the backbone of  The Building System.  This is where the outside environment conflicts with the inside.

Traditional builders still use the wood framing method, which falls short in regard to durability (termites, wood rot, mold), and it requires added insulation.  Steel framing is quite expensive, and it’s difficult to find people who know how to do it.  It also requires insulation.  Thermal bridging is an issue with wood, and more so with steel.

SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) are easy to manufacture and provide good insulation and strength.  They can be made to various sizes with window openings all pre-cut.  They are easy and quick to assemble.  The roof system can also be SIPs, with modest trusses, allowing for open and attractive interior spaces.  They do not suffer from thermal bridging, which is another plus.  The downside of SIPs is the fact that they limit the design of the home to a simple gable design with relatively few corners.

ICF (Insulated concrete forms) have been around for fifty years.  There are lots of manufacturers and this construction method is widely used in Canada and some northern states.  It is extremely strong, with 5″ foam insulation sandwiching 6-1/2″ of reinforced concrete.  Convection is not an issue and no termite wants to eat it.  The R-value of the system itself is about 25.  But when you take into account the thermal mass, the lack of convection or conduction and add in the radiant barrier/moisture barrier and air spaces, plus the exterior finish (stucco, stone or brick) and the sheet rock on the inside wall, the number is probably more like R-50!  There are no seams like in the SIPs system.  And a 14″ thick wall makes for a quiet home.  OK, this ICF has massive strength, the thermal mass, resistance to heat movement, sound dampening, resistance to convection moisture, bugs, wind, fire…so this is what makes sense!  The additional cost was $3/sq.ft over the cost of wood framing…amazing difference it makes!  They found a company in Texas that makes the product, BuildBlock ICF, and their service and reputation are first-class.

The roof information in my next post will amaze you!  Meanwhile, if you would like to see more photos and details of this beautiful home, click here or contact me for a personal tour.



GREEN Medical Center Home for Sale: Principles for the U.S. Gulf Coast Home

3703 Drummond

The United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED-H) program looks at home building from a broad view.  This program looks at where the home is built, (Braes Heights near the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX), and how, and with what materials it is built.  The LEED certification process requires site management, recycling and waste management during construction.  Credits are given for energy efficiency, water conservation, air quality, product choice, etc.  The top rating is Platinum.  The guiding principles for a U.S. Gulf Coast home involve “what makes sense” in regard to the following features:

Strength and Durability:  This basically means “hurricane resistant”.  The storms bring wind water and utility failure.  Walls, windows and the roof are the core of the strength of the system.  Utility failure, which lasted up to three weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008, dictated they include backup electric power and water.  Durability also applies to a longer term without maintenance issues.  The builder pursued the “Fortified” rating from the Institute for Building and Home Safety.  This is awarded to homes of exceptional strength and threat resistance.  This home was engineered to withstand winds 20 miles/hour over the FEMA wind speed zone designation for this location.

Efficiency:  This is in regard to energy in vs. energy out.  “Energy in” means solar electric and solar thermal.  “Energy out” is the sealed building envelope, immense insulation, and radiant barriers.

Security:  Keep out the boogie man and keep your stuff in!

Livability/Health/Comfort:  This category addresses air quality, humidity level, choice of appliances, lighting and finishes, and even the bathroom exhaust fan.

Affordability:  Understand there is a cost to buy and a cost to operate.  This is where “what makes sense” makes sense!  The owner shared with me that this home’s costs were about 20% higher than a traditional home, and I think much of that extra cost is recovered in energy savings, longer lived appliances, especially those with water that is pure as this system provides.

Green:  LEED-H Platinum was the target goal.

Next week’s blog will reveal the details of the building envelope, the backbone of the Building System.

If you would like to know more about this home, more pictures and details can be found here.




GREEN Medical Center Home for Sale

3703 Drummond

This home for sale is in the Texas Medical Center area in Braes Heights.  This home proves you don’t have to be “hippy” to be green!

I am going to tell you all about it over several postings, because the design and building processes were thought through so well, with every detail considered, and every system working with the total package.  I am confident you will learn something about green building in Houston, TX, and the materials necessary to make the total package efficient.  The owner calls it a Building System that is specific to the U.S. Gulf coast.  So this system addresses the environmental stressors on a home, as well as sustainability, efficiency and long-term cost issues.  Instead of “traditional” home building, which is done for the day of sale, this one was built for the long haul!

The owner consulted with the inventor of an amazing radiant barrier, and he referred the owner to Texas A&M’s Energy Systems Lab.  The Aggies committed to a project where they would design, build, study and complete the Building System.  Together with the owner, they researched all the sub-systems typical in a house—the walls, attic, roof, HVAC, electrical, rain-water collection, etc., over 300 products and technologies.  They narrowed the list to include products and technologies that actually do work together.

The benchmark for the decision-making was always, “What makes sense?”.  They did not throw in materials and systems just for the sake of “going green”.  The return of investment was critical in their decisions.  Todd Rice, of Rice Residential Designs, took the components of the home that were chosen, and designed a beautiful home that fits in with other new homes in Braes Heights.  Interfield Group was the engineering firm chosen to carry out the ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) construction, and this group knew how to take the project through the “Fortified” rating process.  This was the first home in Houston to achieve this rating.

Choosing a builder became a challenge, because the green builders wanted to charge way too much, so the owner decided to form his own company, Durable Residential Builders, LLC.  Rice Residential Design introduced him to Jim Kuchenbrod, who had experience with this construction method, and he seemed to have the same level of passion as the owner, so they became partners.

In my next posting,  I will define the elements of this green home.  Meanwhile, if you are interested in seeing this home for sale or learning more about it, please contact me through my website, www.medcenterhomes.com.